I hadn’t really weighed in much about what I think of the whole DirecTV vs. Versus kerfuffle. Since I don’t have DirecTV I’m just an interested observer when it comes to the skirmish. I can’t lie, I did find the war of the words amusing.
I don’t really have much of an opinion on which side is right and which is wrong. Did the Comcast-owned Versus make unreasonable demands when it comes to carriage? Is DirecTV merely being cheap, or is it a financially prudent decision for them?
These questions perhaps do have real answers, but miss the point of what’s actually going on. It’s not about right or wrong from the perspective of Versus and DirecTV (though understandably, it may be for DirecTV customers who enjoy Versus), it’s about negotiations and leverage. The important question was: who has the most leverage?
That question was probably answerable a month ago, but let there be no doubt now. The answer is: it's DirecTV.
It could just be a perception is reality thing, but DirecTV isn’t expecting any mass exodus over this from its subscribers. Months ago now, when Viacom was in a similar skirmish with its networks for carriage on Time Warner Cable, Viacom ran crawlers on its shows like “You are about to lose SpongeBob!”. SpongeBob and Nickelodeon are big deals when it comes to cable. And though the ratings have languished somewhat over at MTV and VH1, they’re not languishing compared to Versus.
For the week ending August 23, when it came to average viewers for the full day, the Viacom owned Nickelodeon was the #1 network, MTV was #29, VH1 was #36, and Versus was #60 out of all the basic cable networks. So, Viacom and SpongeBob have a lot of leverage.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t wind up being an awful lot of DirecTV subscribers who will be upset. But Versus didn’t have the leverage it needed, so the real negotiations begin now. Again, I expect it to get resolved within 30 days.
Update: 10:20PM, PDT from DirecTV's Twitter, the war of the words continues: